March 5, 2012
TorrentFreak: March 3, 2012
The file-sharing landscape is slowly adjusting in response to the continued push for more anti-piracy tools, the final Pirate Bay verdict, and the raids and arrests in the Megaupload case. Faced with uncertainty and drastic changes at file-sharing sites, many users are searching for secure, private and uncensored file-sharing clients. Despite the image its name suggests, RetroShare is one such future-proof client.
The avalanche of negative file-sharing news over the past weeks hasn’t gone unnoticed to users and site operators.
From SOPA to Megaupload, there is a growing uncertainly about the future of sharing.
While many BitTorrent sites and cyberlockers continue to operate as usual, there is a growing group of users who are expanding their horizons to see what other means of sharing are available if the worst case scenario becomes reality.
Anonymous, decentralized and uncensored are the key and most sought-after features. For some this means signing up with a VPN to make their BitTorrent sharing more private, but new clients are also generating interest.
Earlier this month we wrote about Tribler, a decentralized BitTorrent client that makes torrent sites obsolete. We’ve covered Tribler for more than half a decade, but it was only after our most recent post that it really took off with more than a hundred thousand downloads in a few days.
But there are more file-sharing tools that are specifically built to withstand outside attacks. Some even add anonymity into the mix. RetroShare is such a private and uncensored file-sharing client, and the developers have also noticed a significant boom in users recently.
The RetroShare network allows people to create a private and encrypted file-sharing network. Users add friends by exchanging PGP certificates with people they trust. All the communication is encrypted using OpenSSL and files that are downloaded from strangers always go through a trusted friend.
In other words, it’s a true Darknet and virtually impossible to monitor by outsiders.
RetroShare founder DrBob told us that while the software has been around since 2006, all of a sudden there’s been a surge in downloads. “The interest in RetroShare has massively shot up over the last two months,” he said.
“In January our downloads tripled when interest in SOPA was at its peak. It more than doubled again in February, when cyberlockers disabled sharing or shut down entirely. At the moment we are getting 10 times more downloads than in December 2011.”
RetroShare’s downloads at Sourceforge
RetroShare’s founder believes that there is an increased need for security, privacy and freedom among file-sharers, features that are at the core of his application.
“RetroShare is about creating a private space on the Internet. A social collaboration network where you can share anything you want. A space that is free from the prying eyes of governments, corporations and advertisers. This is vitally important as our freedom on the Internet is under increasing threat,” DrBob told TorrentFreak.
“RetroShare is free from censorship: like Facebook banning ‘obscene’ breast-feeding photographs. A network that allows you to use any pseudonym, without insisting on knowing your real name. A network where you will not face the threat of jail, or being banned from entry into a country for an innocent tweet.”
It’s impossible to accurately predict what file-sharing will look like 5 years from now. But, a safe assumption is that anonymity will play a more central role than it ever has.
Recent crackdowns have made operators of central file-sharing sites and services more cautious of copyright infringement. Some even went as far as shutting down voluntarily, like BTjunkie.
In the long run this might drive more casual downloaders to legitimate alternatives, if these are available. Those who keep on sharing could move to smaller communities, darknets, and anonymous connections.
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Damn! Wrong folder! I hate it when that happens! Precisely what is wrong about Internet censorship—does more harm than good.]
TorrentFreak: March 2, 2012
A “human error” carried out by the police resulted in thousands of websites being completely blocked at the DNS level yesterday. Danish visitors to around 8,000 sites including Google and Facebook were informed that the sites were being blocked by the country’s High Tech Crime Unit due to them offering child pornography, a situation which persisted for several hours.
Censorship online is an emotive issue.
Some people believe that all information should be free and as adults it should be our right to be able to make our own choices in deciding what to view. In other countries that is not an option since oppressive regimes take control in order to maintain their power base.
In the West, online censorship takes different forms. In addition to censorship aimed at tackling serious criminality, increasingly entertainment companies are pushing to have sites blocked to protect their corporate interests. Opponents argue that a free and open Internet overrides the need to protect a rightsholder every time, and that mechanisms such as DNS blockades could break the Internet.
In Denmark yesterday the Internet didn’t exactly collapse, but for thousands of businesses it was hardly service as usual.
For several hours, customers of ISP Siminn (although it could have easily been the whole country) were denied access to thousands of websites including Google and Facebook. When attempting to view any of the blocked pages visitors were given a worrying message relating to the most emotive blocking reason of all – the protection of children.
“The National High Tech Crime Center of the Danish National Police [NITEC], who assist in investigations into crime on the internet, has informed Siminn Denmark A/S, that the internet page which your browser has tried to get in contact with may contain material which could be regarded as child pornography,” the message began.
“Upon the request of The National High Tech Crime Center of the Danish National Police, Siminn Denmark A/S has blocked the access to the internet page.”
NITEC is responsible for maintaining a list of sites which they want to be made unavailable to Danish citizens. Each day the country’s Internet service providers retrieve the list and then apply DNS blockades across their infrastructure. Yesterday, however, someone made a huge mistake.
According to NITEC chief Johnny Lundberg, it began when an employee at the police center decided to move from his own computer to that of a colleague.
“He sat down and was about to make an investigation, and in doing so he placed a list of legitimate sites in the wrong folder,” Lundberg explained. “Before becoming aware of the error, two ISPs retrieved the list of sites.”
That list contained 8,000 sites.
After becoming aware of the problem NITEC corrected the error but it took at least 3 hours for customers of the ISPs to regain access to the sites in question. Fortunately no more ISPs adopted the erroneous lists in the meantime, but that was by sheer luck.
Lundberg said that his organization was sorry for the mistake and has now adopted a new system whereby blocked sites have to now be approved by two employees instead of one, although why that was not the case already for such a serious process is up for debate.
The other question is how at the flick of a switch do 8,000 sites suddenly get added to a blacklist – for whatever reason – without any kind of oversight. Denmark’s IT-Political Association is critical and has called for ISPs to cease cooperation with the voluntary scheme which operates without any kind of judicial review.
“Today’s story shows that the police are not able to secure against manual errors that could escalate into something that actually works as a ‘kill switch’ for the Internet,” the group said in a statement.
Govt plans law to restrain Constitution drafters from amending lèse majesté provisions…just in case-Bangkok Post
March 5, 2012
[FACT comments: The present govt wants a new Constitution. But now it’s making rules, preconditions. What we really need is an irrevocable bill of rights, guaranteeing everyone’s human rights and civil liberties. All the rest means nothing.]
Committee: Monarchy won’t be touched
Bangkok Post: March 2, 2012
The 45-member joint parliamentary committee scrutinising charter amendment bills has agreed to write an article to prevent a constitution drafting assembly (CDA) from amending Chapters 1 and 2 of the 2007 constitution regarding the state and the monarchy, committee chairman Samart Kaewmeechai said on Friday.
Mr Samart, a Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai, was speaking today after the scrutiny committee’s second meeting, called to lay down a rough framework for amendments.
The committee will meet again on March 8 to consider which sections in the constitution should be amended, he said.
All three bills being scrutinsed, one filed by the government and the two others by the Pheu Thai and Chartthaipattana parties, seek the amendment of only Section 291 to make way for the establishment of a CDA to rewrite the constitution.
The scrutiny committee today agreed that an article would be written into the final amendment bill to make it clear that the CDA would not amend Chapters 1 and 2 of the 2007 constitution regarding the state and the monarchy, so that those who worried about this matter would feel relieved and satisfied, he said.
Concerning independent agencies, the committee agreed basically that the CDA should work in a direction to make sure that those agencies perform their duties straightforwardly without interference by any political or other groups.
The CDA would be given a guideline not to dissolve any of the existing independent agencies, Mr Samart said.
On the number of CDA members, Mr Samart said the committee initially adhered to the government’s bill. which provides for a a 99-member CDA.
However, the issue could be discussed by MPs and senators in the committee holding different opinions over the composition of the CDA.
On the qualifications of CDA members, the committee initially agreed that a CDA member must be 35 years of age or more, have been born in the province they represent, or lived there for at least five years, or have served as a government official in that province for at least five years, and must not be a person banned from office by the constitution.
Concerning education, the government’s draft wants a CDA member to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but the Pheu Thai and Chartthaipattana drafts do not include this provision.
This matter will be further discussed by the scrutiny committee, he said.
March 5, 2012
[FACT comments: This comes as so-what news. Thai govt has multiple forms of martial law at its instant disposal.]
Emergency decree should be repealed: panel
The Nation: March 2, 2012
A legislative panel has called for the repeal of the emergency decree on the grounds that provisions were not designed to handle street protests.
The panel, appointed by the House speaker and headed by former lawmaker Prasob Busarakham, on Friday submitted its report on the enforcement of the emergency decree.
Prasob said a key finding was the decree had been improperly invoked to quell street protests even though it was not designed for keeping peace at political rallies.
He said the decree should be upgraded into an act of Parliament in order to allow a full debate on how to update the emergency provisions to keep up with change in the security situation.
In regard to the street protests, he said a new agency should be formed specialising on crowd control.
“The deployment of soldiers to disperse the crowd was improper leading to fatal losses,” he said.
He also argued that the emergency decree, if repealed, would not impact on the operations to quell violence in the South because the situation could be handled via the Internal Security Act.
March 5, 2012
[FACT comments: Some might blame this senseless act, from which the entire planet has no hope of recovery, on ya ba or the carelessness of youth or just another American with no sense of history. Whatever, it’s an excellent argument for euthanasia. A life sentence just would not be enough. 1.73956 times older than JC, in fact.]
Florida woman admits she burned down a tree ‘older than Jesus’
Raw Story: February 29, 2012
A 26-year-old Floridian woman admitted to burning down one of the oldest trees in the world Tuesday afternoon.
According to WFTV, Sara Barnes was arrested after admitting she set The Senator, a 3,500 year old bald cypress tree, on fire on a mid-January night in Longwood, Florida.
Barnes, a regular drug user who was smoking meth with a friend at the time, lit the tree on fire so that she could see in the dark but could not stop it from spreading.
“I can’t believe I burned down a tree older then Jesus,” Barnes told authorities before taken into custody by police.
The Senator, which became a landmark in Longwood, was the fifth oldest tree in the world.
WATCH: Video from WFTV, which was broadcast on February 28, 2012.